Is a DUI a felony?

Criminal laws are complex. If you have been charged with drunk driving, a relatively straightforward question about your potential charges and penalties can lead to a number of follow-up questions regarding the circumstances of your arrest. Your answers to those questions will determine whether you are facing felony charges and your maximum potential penalties.

Felony vs. misdemeanor charges

First, the basics: A felony is a more serious crime that carries with it a penalty of at least more than one year in state prison. A misdemeanor, on the other hand, does not necessarily mean a person is facing jail time, although a misdemeanor in Colorado can result in up to two years in county jail. Both misdemeanors and felonies can vary in their severity.

New law effective August 5, 2015 makes a fourth DUI a felony

You may have heard that Colorado recently made certain repeat DUI convictions a felony offense. Previously, repeat DUI offenses in Colorado were misdemeanors. Whether it was your second or ninth DUI arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, you would be facing a misdemeanor, so long as there were no other factors associated with the arrest that would lead to enhanced charges.

Colorado is the 46th state to make a repeat DUI a felony offense. The law applies to previous DUI convictions in other states. Additionally, Colorado has no "look back" period, meaning a prior DUI - no matter how long ago - is subject to the new law.

Anyone convicted of a fourth DUI in Colorado is facing up to six years in jail.

Felony and misdemeanor drunk driving criminal defense

A DUI charge is always at least a misdemeanor, although that does not necessarily mean you will face significant jail time for a first offense. However, administrative penalties and fines, not to mention your criminal record, make any charge of drunk driving a serious matter.

In addition to prior convictions, a DUI charge can be raised to a felony if another motorist or passenger was injured. In addition, if there were minor children in the vehicle with the intoxicated driver or if significant property damage occurred, you may be facing enhanced penalties up to and including felony charges.

While not a felony, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater (this amount was also recently lowered) are considered "persistent drunk drivers" and will face increased administrative penalties.

Questions? Contact a criminal defense attorney for specifics

As noted above, the criminal charges associated with drunk driving can vary widely according to the circumstances of your arrest. Because your circumstances are unique, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your charges and potential defenses. Regardless of the specific charge, an arrest on suspicion of drunk driving will carry potentially life-altering consequences.

FleschLaw is a criminal law firm practicing out of Englewood and Denver.

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I had two driving under suspension tickets pending. I thought for sure I was going to Jail. Kevin was able to help me understand the DMV process, get my driving privilege back and resolve the two tickets so I didn't go to Jail and I can drive again. Amazing... – Juan

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Kevin handled my criminal case. The DA would not make me any offers and so we went to trial. The trial took all day but Kevin made their star witness look incredible and a liar. The jury came back fast - not guilty. Kevin was great in trial!!! - Larry

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I was very, very happy with the service I received from Kevin and delighted with the results. I certainly recommend Kevin to anyone that will need his type of service. I was looking at the possibility of losing my license and not only did I keep my license, but I still have points to spare! Delighted!!! - Marc

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I got charged with a DUI and I didn't think the police officer should have contacted me to begin with. I knew I needed a lawyer to make the arguments for me. I interviewed several lawyers and felt comfortable with Kevin. He had to file motions and then have a hearing on the issue. His arguments were right on and the Judge granted my requests. The case was dismissed. – Wanda

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I was on probation for a DUI and I got another one. I freaked out and called Kevin. He calmed me down and worked for over 9 months and finally got my new case reduced to a reckless driving. I hate court but Kevin and his staff really worked hard and never gave up. In the end, Fleschlaw exceeded my expectations. – Derick

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I was charged with DUI. I thought my life was over. Kevin met with me and really wanted to know what happened. After hearing how I was arrested, he thought the officer should not have contacted me. He was able to get my case dismissed. – Ron

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He was very helpful in my criminal case. He helped me stay out of jail. He is very friendly and I liked the people in his office. – Criminal Defense Client